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Taking screenshots is a basic but important computer skill that all users should have. And while you hopefully have a favorite tool for both taking and editing screenshots, sometimes you’re caught in a pinch and wonder how to edit a screenshot in Microsoft Paint.
While it’s not ideal, we’ll show you how to perform basic screenshot editing in MS Paint. It’s good to know in case you find yourself on a friend’s computer or one where you can’t install anything.
The Basics of Taking a Screenshot on Windows
Before we look at how to edit a screenshot on your PC, you need to know how to get a screenshot in the first place. The most basic method involves Microsoft Paint.
First, press the Print Screen key (which might be abbreviated as PrtScn or similar on your keyboard) to copy everything on your desktop to the clipboard. If you have multiple monitors and want to screenshot just the current display, press Alt + PrtScn instead.
Next, open Microsoft Paint. You can do this easily by opening the Start menu and typing paint to search for it.
Once you have Paint open, just press Ctrl + V (the universal shortcut to Paste ) to place the screenshot into Paint. If you don’t need to edit the print screen output, you can simply press Ctrl + S (or go to File > Save as) to open the Save dialog and give your image a name.
If you want a slightly more robust, yet still built-in, way to capture a screenshot, try the Snipping Tool. Type snipping into the Start menu to find it. Instead of capturing your entire display with PrtScn, this lets you select an area or window on the screen to capture. Doing so cuts down on the screenshot editing you do later.
In future versions of Windows 10, the Snipping Tool’s functionality will move to the new Snip & Sketch app. You can access this with the shortcut Win + Shift + S.
How to Edit Screenshots in Microsoft Paint
Now, let’s look at some common forms of editing a screenshot you should know how to do in Paint. This shows how to edit a screenshot on Windows 10, but the methods work in earlier versions, too.
How to Crop a Screenshot
Chances are that if you captured an entire window in your screenshot, you don’t want to show all of it. Cropping is an easy solution to this.
To crop a screenshot, simply choose the Select tool from the top Ribbon. If you don’t see that, double-click the Home tab to pin it open.
The default is rectangular selection; click the arrow below this to change that. Drag your mouse over the area you want to keep, then click the Crop button on the top bar to cut the image down to just that selection.
If you’d rather crop from the edges, grab one of the white boxes at the bottom, right, or bottom-right ends of the canvas in Paint. You can drag this to easily trim off unwanted bits from the edges. If you drag the edges out instead, you’ll make the canvas bigger.
Highlight Elements Using Boxes
An easy and non-obtrusive way to highlight certain parts of your screenshot is using boxes. Paint has this built-in on the Shapes section of the Ribbon.
First, select the rectangle or rounded rectangle option. Next, under Outline, choose Solid color and set Fill to No fill. Choose a Size for the thickness of the outline, and pick a color to the right of that. Red is generally a good color for grabbing attention.
From there, it’s as simple as drawing the box wherever you’d like it. Hold Shift as you draw to make a perfect square. After you place it, you can use the white boxes on each side to resize the shape. Press Ctrl + Z to undo and try again if you misplace it.
Adding Arrows to Screenshots
If a box isn’t appropriate, arrows can help you point out something in a screenshot. Because they’re also in the Shapes menu, they work in exactly the same way.
Select one of the four arrows based on the direction you need, then choose a line size and colors for them. With arrows, you may want a Solid color under Fill to make the arrow easier to see. Paint will use Color 2 as the fill color, so set it to the same as Color 1 for a uniform arrow.
Like a box, just use your mouse to draw the arrow shape. Hold Shift to keep it symmetrical.
How to Obfuscate Screenshots Using Paint
Often, screenshots contain sensitive information, such as serial numbers or photos of friends, that you want to remove before sharing. Paint doesn’t have a one-click solution for blurring or pixelating, but you can do it manually.
The easiest way to do this neatly is by using the Select tool to highlight the area you want to obfuscate. Grab one of the small handles at the corner of the image, shrink the selection down, and let go. Then, using the same handle, resize the selection to its original size.
After you do this, the text or image should be pixelated beyond recognition. The smaller you make it, the more blurred it will become. If you’re not satisfied, either press Ctrl + Z and repeat the process completely, or simply repeat it on the slightly blurred text to further garble it.
If you don’t like this method, you can use a rectangle or something else from the Shapes tool and simply draw over the sensitive parts to block them. For best results, you should use the eyedropper tool to make the box the same color as the background.
How to Add Text to Screenshots
Sometimes you might need to drop some text on a screenshot for extra instructions. Paint makes this easy with the Text tool, represented by an A on the Ribbon. Select it, then click on your image where you’d like to place some text.
Once you click, you’ll see a text box and can start typing right away. By default, it’s set to a small font size that you probably won’t be able to see, so you’ll want to use the Text tab that appears on the ribbon to make changes.
Here you can adjust the font and its size, choose whether the background is transparent or opaque, and change the text color. To change the properties of existing text, press Ctrl + A to select it all first, then make your adjustments. Click and drag the box around your text to move it, or use the handles to resize if needed.
Take care during this process, as once you click out of the text box, Paint will permanently place it. You can’t move it after this, so you’ll need to press Ctrl + Z and try again if you don’t have it in the right place.
How to Resize and Rotate Your Screenshots
Need to make more space for your screenshot or want to adjust the entire image? You can use the Resize and Rotate buttons on the Image section for this.
With the maintain aspect ratio box checked, the Resize tool lets you downsize the image without significant loss in quality. You can choose to resize as a percentage or by absolute pixels.
The Rotate and Skew tools aren’t that useful for editing screenshots, but they’re available if you need them.
Saving Your Screenshot
Once you’re done editing, the last step is saving your screenshot. Like most image editors, Paint gives you several options for the file format.
In general, you can stick to PNG or JPEG. PNG images are of higher quality, but take up more space. JPEG images are more space-efficient but are often subject to distortion.
Unless you need the absolute smallest file size possible, we recommend saving screenshots as PNG for the best quality. You can always make a JPEG copy for sharing later.
Upgrade Your Screenshot Editing
We’ve looked at the fundamentals of how to edit screenshots on your PC using MS Paint. While it’s serviceable when you have no other options, we definitely recommend switching to better tools for both taking and editing screenshots if you work with them frequently.
Superior screenshot tools give you more methods for capturing your screen and make common edits, like obfuscating, much simpler.
Image Credit: omihay/Shutterstock